I don't normally take hikes that make me "face my fears." There are so many lovely strolls in the woods and flower filled meadows that do not fill me with panic or apprehension so why would I? Matt and I were actually both just shaking our heads about a recent headline we saw in Backpacker that was something along the lines of The Scariest Hikes in America. We laughed, "Are there people who want scary hikes?!" I guess I am just not that much of a thrill junkie. Thankfully, neither is Matt.
But, all that said, face my fears I did when we hiked up to an incredible, mind-blowing stand of petrified trees in Yellowstone National Park. Twice I faced my fears, in fact. Twice.
The first time was immediately after we arrived at the nearly unmarked trailhead about four miles east of Tower Junction on the NE Entrance Road. A smallish herd of bison with calves was right smack in the middle of the trail which we were hoping to take. I, personally, am as intimidated by the prospect of irritating a bison as I am a bear. They are huge and run three times as fast as I do! Thus, I was almost ready to find a different trail right then and there, I mean, there are lots of trails to choose from....but I really wanted to see those trees! We'd been planning on it for weeks. Also, there is a chance you'll cross paths with a bison on most of the YNP trails so its not necessarily like I'd be safer elsewhere. I mean, there was lots of evidence they used the Beaver Ponds Trail we took a few weeks back. So, we decided to proceed--with caution.
We scouted the terrain a bit in the binoculars and realized we could see the (insanely steep) trail leading up the mountain over the hills and the meadow wherein the bison were grazing. By keeping that trail in sight we could skirt the bison a safe distance and rejoin the trail further on. I have to say, my heart was pounding even though we were hundreds of yards away from them. I felt exposed out there in the open with nothing between those massive, wonderful bison and my small, soft little body. But, they just kept grazing and paid us no mind whatsoever--a very good sign that we were indeed a safe distance. If the animal had stopped grazing to watch us I would have probably turned around. But they didn't. Fear #1 down.
We were pretty much expecting it though. Our guidebook, written by former rangers, repeated over and over about how steep it was. We figured if Rangers think its steep it must be really steep. And it was. They were not kidding when they listed the hike as "strenuous."
|Forget-me-nots, but I am not positive what particular kind. These were Matt's favorites.|
|A view back down the hillside to the valley floor where we began our assent.|
|Matt and the so-very-lovely Shooting Stars. These are probably my favorite.|
|American Pasqueflower with an insect visitor.|
|Matt on top of a fallen petrified tree that has been incorporated into a large rock outcrop.|
|Petrified tree root.|
And we weren't nearly as tired or sore as we might have expected the next day either!